Did we reach a point where we expect artists to do more than make people dance and have a good time? Gerardo Delgado and Quinn Whalley appear to think so. Their Paranoid London project seems designed to push aside anything superfluous. "This is the real deal: dirty, repetitive music for DJs & dancers," read the self-penned press release from their first album. Their style of punk posturing can sometimes be a little corny, but it's obvious they feel the need to kick against an established order. In the wider world of dance music, their spiky attitude and avoidance of interviews stands out.
The 11 tracks on PL, their second album, again celebrate the raw primacy of going hard in the club. There isn't a track on the record that isn't somehow scuffed, bruised or degraded. The recording fidelity is uniformly scruffy but not at the expense of dance floor efficacy—you'll have punchier music in your collection, but these tracks should still cut through. Delgado and Whalley are devoted to productions of simple means. It sounds like the main bits of kit they used were a drum machine, a few synths and perhaps some pedals. The moods and melodies they wring from this gear is, like much of their past work, very impressive.
You'll probably know if you're feeling a track on PL within 30 seconds or less. They tend to establish a track's main themes—grooves, melodies—almost immediately and ride them for all they're worth. "(Vi-Vi) Vicious Games," the first single, is an exception to this rule and it doesn't work too well. The late-emerging sad chords and Robert Owens-style vocals from Josh Caffe sit uneasily with the lively drums and acid lines, as though taken from different sessions. This is a rarity on an album whose strike rate is high. The closer, "Just My Size," tries a vaguely similar development and completely nails it, finishing the album on a moment of meditation.
Delgado and Whalley select singers who share their edgy spirit—this, combined with their knack for hooks, is the Paranoid London formula. The other track with Josh Caffe, "Starting Fights," is far better. "Start a fight, so much to say, turn around and you walk away," he chants. These kinds of tiffs and controlled bouts of aggression are characteristic of the vocals on PL. The message appears to be that the club and its culture can be emotional, chaotic.
The most eye-catching guests here are the late Suicide singer Alan Vega and the veteran producer Arthur Baker, who appear on "Angel Of Hell." Vega's slurs at an unnamed target were most likely lifted from an earlier recording, but Baker's impact is keenly felt in the clarity of the pulsating acid riff. Simon Topping of A Certain Ratio is an inspired match for the 16th-note arpeggio on "Cult Hero (Do You Wanna Touch Me)," his deadpan voice helping to loosen a dancer's grip on reality.
It isn't clear where the repeated vocal samples on "The Music" and "Sly Is Watching" come from, but they're key elements in two of the album's sweaty standouts. "The Boombox Affair," a posthumous collaboration with Bubbles Bubblesynski, the trans DJ and activist who was shot and killed in San Francisco in 2017, poignantly resurfaces here. "There's no crime in raving," Bubbles says, a sentiment that could be PL and Paranoid London's strapline.
Tracklist01. Starting Fights feat. Josh Caffe
02. The Boombox Affair feat. Bubbles Bubblesynski
03. Nobody Watching feat. Mutado Pintado (Album Edit)
04. The Music
05. Angel Of Hell feat. Arthur Baker and Alan Vega (Album Edit)
06. Drum Machine (Album Edit)
07. Blue-Ish (Album Edit)
08. Cult Hero (Do You Wanna Touch Me) feat. Simon Topping (Album Edit)
09. Sly Is Watching (Album Edit)
10. (Vi-Vi) Vicious Games feat. Josh Caffe (Album Edit)
11. Just My Size feat. Mutado Pintado (Album Version)